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Did Durham police have the right to arrest teen for swearing?

Last Updated Jun 4, 2019 at 6:48 pm EDT

Is swearing an arrestable offence?

That question is being raised after a video surfaced on social media showing Durham regional police arresting two 16-year-old boys on May 15 in the Taunton and Thickson roads area of Whitby.

The video shows two officers trying to restrain the first teen, with one officer punching him several times in the back as he appears to struggle and resist.

Police say they had earlier received a call about a distraught male in the area, possibly armed with a knife.

On Monday, police addressed the arresting officers’ conduct, saying they were following protocol.

But the questions don’t end there. During the video several teens surround police, asking them why they are hitting their friend, and requesting their badge numbers.

At one point an officer asks one of the teens if he swore. Shortly after, that teen is placed under arrest.

Durham police maintain he wasn’t arrested merely for swearing.

“I think at this point it was the totality of many things …” said Const. George Tudos. “So I don’t think it was just one word that was uttered.”

“Every situation is different and I know that the officers, their priority was to one individual that they were dealing with, so it didn’t help that this other person was shouting at officers.”

Marcus Decruz was one of the teens who witnessed the arrest. He believes police should have responded to their questions.

“All my friends who were there they know their rights so they were like ‘Who are you? What’s your badge number?’ Things you are allowed to ask a police officer. And then they refused to give information, they wouldn’t tell them.”

The second teen arrested was released with a public nuisance infraction.

Despite a Whitby bylaw that says you can’t use profanity in public or obstruct an officer performing his or her duties, criminal attorney Kim Schofield thinks police overstepped.

“They just clearly don’t have the power to arrest,” she told CityNews. “Police have to exercise their discretion, and I think if you look at the situation in its totality, the discretion just wasn’t there.”